Well, they wanted to know why mommy was crying for one.
But the real reason is that I think it’s a gift to my children to equip them to deal the world the way it really is, by letting them know how it is; in all it’s beauty and all it’s ugliness.
So I’m honest with them about death. We will all die someday, you, me, daddy, your siblings. Our bodies will eventually wear out, get broken, and stop working. But usually parents don’t die before their kids are all grown up and have families of their own, and kids usually live to be grownups and have kids of their own before they die. But sometimes there are accidents/disasters, or diseases, or famines, and then that changes and more people die than should.
I let them see the process by which the animals we eat become food. They have seen goats and chickens slaughtered and butchered, and eaten them that night for dinner.
Only in the wealthy west would it be possible for a child to remain ignorant of these things for any length of time. The degree of visceral insulation built into our culture is ridiculous. The only violence and death we see is pretend and entertaining. The meat we eat is neatly packaged in cellophane with the blood drained out of it. The only dead people we see have been carefully painted and dressed to look as life like as possible while we whisper over their coffins in hushed tones, as though they are merely sleeping. Only in a culture such as this could we live our days with such frivolity, wasting so much time.
Now it’s true that living too completely in the shadow of death is paralyzing. When it’s more likely that you will die than live today, planning stops, and values erode, and people can lose their dignity. But what I want for my children is an awareness of how precious and fleeting time is, and the courage to live and plan, within that endless uncertainty, to make the most of what they have, however long that may be. I want to show them that life is precious, a gift to treasure, and to give away.
For while it is true that death comes to us all, and that there are thousands of bodies piling up in the streets of Haiti right now I don’t leave my children in despair as they look at these images and grasp to comprehend them. I tell them of our God who is good, who holds the living and the dead in his hands, who redeems all things, all the earth in fact, and all it’s people. Together we join hands with our Father and with Him hold in prayer those children of His who are in need. Then, as His hands and feet here, we do what we can to help those who need it, and to be the means by which our Father gives His love to them. Because that’s what we are called to do.